5 Keys to Staying Productive

It seems like the more I have on my plate the more productive I stay. It’s easy for me to hop from one thing to another and cross things off my list when there’s a lot to it. But when I have little to “do” I sometimes fall off the productivity grid because I have no outside force pushing me. But the crazy thing is that I’d actually rather stay productive doing my own thing rather than things other people put in front of me!

So the idea would be to be even more productive when I don’t have school or other things to do with getting things done that are important to me and will further my life for the better. So how do we do it?

1. Write it down. What do you want to accomplish? This is apart from finishing your homework or getting your oil changed. What is it that you want to take upon yourself to do or complete that will make your life or someone else’s life better? Get a clear picture of it and then take the time to write it down so you won’t forget. =)

2. Schedule out your day. One of the keys to staying productive even is to schedule your day (or even your week) even when it’s not scheduled for you! I’m not the expert here, but I want to get back into it because I’ve always felt the most fulfilled when I did. I sit down in the morning and write out what the next 24 hours will look like. Whether it’s the gym right after work or reading during lunch or making phone calls on my drive home. Whatever it is, I want to know how I am going to spend my non-renewable resource called time.

3. Stay involved. Those things you wrote down? Get into them and stay into them. Even if they are goals or things you’d like to do that will take several days or even weeks, don’t give up. Read them and think about them everyday. And actually DO something when you are scheduled to. This will keep you interested and keep your mind on the prize. If the goal is to weigh 10 lbs less and you are going to work out 4 times a week then don’t miss a workout! If you do, you’ll want to miss the next one too. 😉

4. Track progress. If you’re going to stay involved you might as well take the time to track your progress. Otherwise, you might feel like all that “involvement” is not paying off! Whatever it is you are working toward, track the progress you are making toward it. As you see yourself getting closer to the goal you’ll want to stick with it and see it to completion.

5. Cut out unnecessary time-consumers. Once again, I’m no expert here but I am realizing more than ever what an hour of TV watching could be. Or how I could grow even during a lunch break. The possibilities of using our time wisely are endless and so are the time-consumers! 😉 Choose what you want to spend your time on and then spend it on that. Simple, right? ha! I know other things try to cramp in on your time but the key is just to be protective of it.

What do you guys think? Do you have any other tips on staying productive?

Stupid Mistakes Will Cost You

I have 2 checking accounts. One I use to pay bills out of (reoccurring, monthly ones basically) and the other to “live” out of (daily expenses.)

I keep only what I need to in my bills checking account–though I know I need to put a few hundred in there as a cushion, I just haven’t got that far yet.

So this past week I deposited money into the account through the “night drop” at my credit union thinking it would get posted on Saturday (because they are open.) Of course, it didn’t get deposited till Monday but I knew there was that risk.

In the mean time I was charged rent. It was the one weekend I wasn’t paying very close attention to my finances since I had taken cash out to spend while on a mini-vacation to Dallas, and I didn’t think there was any reason to really check up on it.

Wrong.

My stupid (little) mistake cost me a $22.50 non-sufficient fund fee plus a little bit of hassle with the management of my apartment (though they were very understanding since I went to them the day of instead of later.)

Thankfully, since I have a good track record the (awesome) credit union I am a member of refunded it for me, no questions asked. But it does show that regardless of how “automated” your finances are you still need to keep an eye on it.

Wisdom: I have now set up overdraft protection from another account of mine just in case. I should have done this when I opened the account but it goes to show we all can make mistakes sometimes. 😉 I was tempted to get stressed over the whole ordeal but I knew it would work out, and I’d just have to be patient. So I did. And it all paid off. All stress does it make you miserable. It doesn’t help your finances. So next time, just take a deep breath, plan how to fix the problem, then go fix it.

It will all be over soon. 🙂

Savings Goals: Laptops vs White Boards

We all know what this is. You’re probably sitting at one right now. And it’s made all of our lives better. Right? The computer.

I do the majority of my financial stuff on a laptop connected to the internet. I use online banking to transfer money and check account balances. I use Google Docs to hold my budget, savings goals and deadlines, a list of regular bill amounts and due dates, and other financial information. It’s convenient, really. To pick up a small device and be able to access all of that information in a few minutes and make any changes necessary and then be on my merry way.

But I started getting frustrated a couple of weeks ago. I have an excel document that holds all of my savings goals for the next couple of years and then I have it outlined (basically) how I will reach those goals. It’s in detail for the year 2010 and in general for the following years. But for some reason looking at those on a screen was just not satisfying me–plus, there were a lot of “little” things I wanted to buy with cash that I didn’t put on there because they didn’t seem important enough.

And for the life of me I couldn’t get the spreadsheet to look just the way I wanted it to. Computers can only do so much, you know.

So what did I do? I pulled out the white board. I’m pretty sure I just THINK better when I have to hand-write instead of type.

Once I found a dry-erase marker I was at it. I could put things wherever I wanted, however I wanted and it was so easy to change. I know spreadsheets aren’t hard to change, but I think I was just beginning to feel limited by my small screen. I wanted to see everything for the next few months in one glance as far as it came to making purchases I am saving for. There were items, dollar amounts, dates and current totals listed and everything seemed to be sooo much more organized.

I feel so much more free now. I don’t know about you but there’s nothing like getting things in order that takes any stress that I had completely off. Call me old-fashioned but this white board method just soooo worked for me. Who knows, maybe it won’t last but a couple of days but being able to see all of it right there and being able to change it in my own handwriting whenever I wanted to brought me a sense of control that I didn’t have when I was putting them all on the spreadsheet.

Maybe I’m crazy but what I’m trying to say is just do what works for you.

There are countless gurus out there who will tell you, “This is the way you do this” and “This is the way you organize your finances (or your life for that matter).” But none of that really matters if it doesn’t work. Find what works for you and then do it! It will save you time, money and energy.

Computers work for me–most of the time. But for savings goals I’d rather have it on the computer AND on my handwritten white board where I can, literally, touch it. 😉

What about you? Do you prefer computers or hand-written boards or pieces of paper when organizing? Do you have any efficient non-conventional methods of planning you can share with the rest of us?

Art of Planning

So I think I have an obsessive compulsive thing going on with planning. I like to plan. A lot. Probably too much sometimes.

I plan my time. Hours. Evenings. Days. Weekends. Weeks. Months. Years.
I plan my finances. Bi-weekly budgets. Monthly budgets. Short-, mid-, and long-term savings goals. Investment strategies.
I plan my health. (And fail frequently.) Work out routines. Eating habits (that aren’t habits yet.) Sleep cycles. Relaxation.
I plan my career. Positions. Money. Experience. Satisfaction. Passion. Purpose.
I plan my education. Credit hours. Classes. Research. Homework. Tests. Bachelor’s degree. Master’s degree. Doctorate degree.

Of course all of that is hypothetical in a sense because it’s all PLANNING. And if I spent all my time planning I’ll never spend any time LIVING. And from the deepest part of my heart I want to live. Who knows if I’ll ever do everything I’ve planned to do; but what I know for sure is I can live this moment to the full.

So do we plan or not? My short answer is YES. Plan. And plan big. Because if you don’t plan big, you won’t “go big.” Set a goal to reach a goal. So spend a few days a year, a few hours a month, and maybe a few minutes a day planning. But then put down your pen and paper, take a deep breath, and start living.